Photo: Erik Mclean / Unsplash
Living in a log cabin is the ultimate dream for many Americans who want to live a simpler and more rustic lifestyle. Whether it’s a small vacation built by hand, a modest modular home delivered to your site in one or two pieces, or a grand log cabin built in a factory and then rebuilt on your site, there are many different ways to achieve this dream.
If you want to be sure that you’ll have a beautiful, easy to build cabin, log cabin kits offer a flexible and cost effective way to build your home. But with hundreds of thousands of log cabins being built every year, how should you decide which log cabin kit is for you? After reading this article you’ll know the six key steps to help you choose your dream log cabin, and you’ll feel confident that you can choose a reputable company to help you.
1. Deciding Your Budget
The very first step you need to do, before even beginning to think about build a log cabin, is to decide on your budget. For most of us, that means sitting down to work out how much we can afford to spend on the project.
It’s important to not just consider the cost of the kit, because this is usually only around one third of the total cost of building a cabin. Here is a breakdown of the large costs that you need to budget for.
- Log Cabin Kit
- Labor Costs
- Interior Finish
- Taxes and Legal Costs
As a rough guide, you can expect the total cost of your build to be around 2 or 3 times the amount of the log cabin kit. The average cost of a log cabin kit that is under 1,100 square feet is $75,000, a cabin between 1,100 and 2,200 square feet will cost around $155,000 and a large kit in excess of 2,200 square feet averages around $200,000.
You can expect to pay more than this if you want your cabin to be custom designed or if you choose high quality materials or on-site installation.
2. Planning for Your Needs
Once you know your budget you can start thinking about how much space you need in your cabin.Think about how many bedrooms you’ll need. For most people, this will be quite straightforward. For example a family of four will most likely want three or four bedrooms. Do you need an office space or a guest room? Would you like a downstairs bathroom, loft space or a garage? Try to make sure that these ideas will fit onto the parcel on land which you have, and use the land to sculpt your ideas. For example if the land has a sloped gradient, you could design an under house garage and a large decking area on the top.
3. Decide on the Style
There are a vast variety of looks that you can achieve building a log cabin, from a traditional hand scribed amish built cabin, to a milled kit with uniformly shaped logs. What kind of style do you picture when you close your eyes? Take a look through the many different types online if you’re not sure. You’ll then need to decide whether you want square, round or D-shape logs and how you want the logs to be joined at the corners. Each construction type gives a very unique look. The most popular ones are a full scribe (or saddle) notch and the dovetail notch. Give some thought to the type of wood you’d like your cabin to be built with, some companies only offer certain species though, with pine and white cedar being the most popular choices.
4. Choosing a Reputable Company
Once you have a rough idea of what you’re looking for, you can start to look for a company to discuss your design ideas with. With hundreds of manufacturers in the US, it’s difficult to know how to single it down to just one company, so you’ll need to perform your own checks on them. As a bare minimum, they should meet these standards:
Are they registered with an association such as the NAHB or the International Log Builders’ Association?
Good quality and reputable companies will want to prove to their customers that they are meeting high building standards and should be able to provide you with past customer reviews too.
Do they use high quality materials and are their cabins built by skilled professionals?
There is a reason some kits are really cheap, and that’s because they use low quality materials which are built by people who don’t have the training and experience necessary to build a quality log home. Do decide if a company meets this criteria, ask to visit their factory premise and speak to the tradesmen to get an idea of their level of skill. Ask whether their logs are graded, and about their drying process.
Do they offer onsite assistance and an installation service?
If a company doesn't have the option to install the log cabin on your site, either through their own team or builders who they can recommend then run a mile! The company should be confident in their homes and offer to build them on your site for an additional cost.
What is their customer service like?
Follow your gut on this one, you’ll get a good idea of what their customer service is like after just one conversation, but make sure you ask about the level of support they provide both during and after the build.
Don’t be fooled by deceptively low prices, there is usually a reason for a cheap log cabin kit. If the price sounds too good to be true, it probably is. They might be using low grade logs, or logs that haven't dried out properly, or perhaps they don’t have the experience of some of the larger more reputable companies. Don’t compromise quality for price, you’ll want a cabin which will last for generations to come.
6. Contents of the Kit
Whilst you might expect a log cabin kit to come with everything you need to build a complete log cabin, this is not always the case. As a bare minimum, most cabins come with what you’ll need to build the shell; the logs, roof, windows and doors. Some companies offer different levels of kits, from shell to turn-key (complete) kits so it’s really important that you know exactly what the contents of the kit are to avoid any hidden costs. Once you’re sure that you know your budget, have a good design in mind and have found a reputable company, you’ll be able to get started on your log cabin build!
About the Author:
David Woods, is a semi retired carpenter who has specialized in building homes and all things wood his whole life. He now spends his spare time lecturing in a local college, and sharing his knowledge with millions of people on his website, Log Cabin Hub.